The Solar Decathlon evolved this year with the advent of the Affordability Contest. It replaced the Lighting Design Contest, which was subsumed within other contests in the competition. Pursuant to the rules, teams receive up to 100 points by achieving an estimated construction cost of $250,000 or less. Above that, there’s a sliding scale with no points awarded for homes with a construction cost above $600,000.

You may be wondering how the Department of Energy calculates the construction cost of each of 19 solar-powered homes.

In short, Matt Hansen, a professional cost estimator – aka The Costimator – has been working with SD2011 teams since March 2010 to put a price on everything that went into the competition projects, according to the DOE blog. Hansen used RSMeans to estimate the cost of materials, labor, and heavy equipment used to build the homes on the site.

The DOE today announced the results of this contest and it looks like only two teams met the $250,000 threshold. Both Parsons The New School for Design/Stevens Institute of Technology and Purdue University Team Belgium received full points, although the Parsons/Stevens home was built for nearly $20,000 less than the Belgian home.

Only six teams built their home for an estimated cost of less than $300,000. All of the teams in the competition remained below the $500,000 mark. In other words, none of them suffered the goose egg that comes with a +$600,000 build. Teams that didn’t perform as desired will still have nine other contests to make up some ground.

Update 9/30/11: well, disregard some of the above.  Apparently, there was a mistake in calculating some of these numbers, and the Solar Decathlon announced modified results for the Affordability Contest.  Here are the updated numbers:

Which team do you think will win it all this year?

Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. DOE.